House Hunting in Okinawa, part 2: Why It Really Is “Fun”

October 19, 2014, In: Life, Oki

As I know I have made abundantly clear… I really loved house hunting in Okinawa. After talking to some friends back in the States about it, I’ve been told it was my use of the word “fun” while referring to the process that was so surprising to them . So I thought I would write a second post about why it really is fun, and the two factors that make it so different than house hunting in the States.

The first is that entire process moves very quickly. No military members are coming to Okinawa to buy property. We all need to rent and the housing agencies know that. For the most part, we are all also living in “TLF” or Temporary Lodging Facilities on our respective bases until we find something, so we’re naturally anxious to get a move on. Also, properties move fast here. Really fast. Remember that first penthouse-style apartment that I loved in the last post? Well, we saw it at 1pm and someone else saw it at 3pm. They signed for it on the spot, and that was that.

I’m not sorry we didn’t take it right away (I love, love, love the location of our new place) but it was the first place we had seen and there was no way that we could have predicted that a house would literally go in two hours. We all have to find somewhere to live and we are all in a hurry to do it. It just moves fast.

The second thing, and probably the primary reason that the house hunting experience was fun and not stressful, is that the housing agencies know your budget and don’t show you anything you can’t afford. One of the first questions the agents asked when I called to set up appointments was if I was in the military or a civilian. As soon as I said that my husband was military, they asked his rank– because they have our housing allowances memorized.

It felt kind of weird at first. I’ve always tried to go in low when making big purchases, while having a more realistic number in the back of my mind. But not here. They know exactly how much we are allotted, down to the exact figure we are given for utilities. Turns out, that even though it feels strange at first: it’s amazing for your agent to really know your budget. One of the things I have noticed in my vast experience of watching House Hunters International, is that they always seem to show places that are “just a little bit” above the house hunter’s budget. They fall in love with the expensive places and decide, what’s another 10 grand when we are already spending 400k? This simply doesn’t happen for military members who are house hunting in Okinawa. Not a single housing agent suggested that we even consider going above our allotted housing budget. And I loved that.

For an overseas PCS like this one (at least in the AF) housing allowances are a use it or lose it system. You don’t get to save anything that you aren’t using for rent, so you might as well spend it.

Three years from now, when we are back Stateside (most likely) and are actually looking to buy a house, I’m sure I will have plenty to say about the stress and frustration of the house hunting experience… But I guess we got lucky looking for our first house together, because Okinawa is not the States– and after three days of looking, we signed on the stamp. (Oh yeah, stamps. That’s another Okinawa difference. They are the most stamp-happy people I have ever met. They stamp everything. But we will get into that another time.)

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